Failing to get athletes on right track

Their dream to practise on a synthetic surface continues to remain elusive

Failing to get athletes on right track

Neeraj Bagga

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 23

Athletes hailing from the border district have invariably brought laurels for the country at international sports since Independence but their dream to prepare on a synthetic athletics track continues to remain elusive.

Many attempts to lay a synthetic track on nearly eight acres of the university’s athletic ground did not materialise for one reason or another.

Together, Amritsar and Tarn Taran are known as the powerhouse for producing quality players in track and field events. The array of prominent players who earned medals for the country at international events and national level is exhaustive. Names of some prominent players are Gurbachan Singh Randhawa (Decathlon), Praveen Kumar (Discuss and Hammer throw), Khushbir Kaur (20 km walk), Mandeep Kaur (400 meters relay), Navjit Kaur Dhillon (discus) and others.

Lack of infrastructure has been costing dearly to athletes, especially those preparing for national and international events in their career. A budding discus thrower, on the condition of anonymity, divulged that their practice remained far from the national and international standard. Participating in competitions on the synthetic athletic turf after preparing on ordinary ground left several gaps. Lack of exposure and practice on the synthetic track fritter away their points which eventually cost their rankings at the national level.

Over seven years ago, the then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh had sanctioned an amount of Rs 5.5 crore to lay a synthetic athletics track at the Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU) but the grant was shifted to the North East due to some technical reasons.

Harjap Singh Aujla, a hockey lover, said non-utilisation of the grant for a long prompted the Union Ministry to transfer it to a state in the North East in 2015.

He said ample funds were being released for Maharaja Bhupinder Singh Sports University at Patiala and the work has been going on in full swing. However, the GNDU, which clinched the coveted Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (MAKA) trophy for a record 23 times, and produced 35 Arjuna awardees, was not being given synthetic athletic track.

Dr Kanwar Mandeep Singh, Assistant Director Sports, GNDU, said continuous efforts were being put in to bring in the synthetic track for track and field events but it did not elicit a positive response. He recalled that the project under the Union Sports Ministry’s Khelo India scheme was sanctioned about two years ago and a grant of Rs 2.5 crore also arrived. E-tender for laying the track was called and two firms expressed interest to lay it. Since it did not comply with the norm of at least three participants in the bidding process, the tender was abrogated.

Later, without citing any reason, the grant was also recalled, dashing their hopes of a state-of-the-art track. The proposed track was the one recommended by the Amateur International Athletics Federation. Had it been installed here, it would have made the city fifth in the country to have such a track.

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